23 Jun 2012

Roast pumpkin slices, two ways

I made a very simple but delicious meal from a wedge of pumpkin last night. I was aware that it had been sitting in the fridge, wrapped in crisp kitchen paper, for well over a week - since mum and dad gave it to me. Not too much, I said, I still have a butternut from the last time I saw you. Oh now how I wish I had asked for 'too much'.

This lovely pumpkin; a dark autumnal orange with grey-green skin (I haven't yet found out the variety from dad). I sliced it thinly - less than a centimetre thick - making sure each had a thin ribbon of that smooth skin. I had two recipes that I lightly consulted: one from Yotam Ottolenghi's book 'Plenty', the other from a blog by hungry girls (there are lots of us around, apparently).

Simplicity itself - as all good meals should be. While the oven came up to a roaring hot speed (about 200), I lay the delicate fan-shaped wedges of pumpkin on some baking sheets then anointed them with olive oil.

On the first, I took my cues from those hungry girls. I sprinkled over some dark smoky paprika, then a liberal shake of dried chili flakes, the burnt red colour of the flakes glowing against the pumpkin shards. Then a quick dash outside to the garden for some fresh rosemary - this week, any dash outside has to be quick, or you risk getting frostbite. Chopped up fine; salt and pepper.

A different approach for the other tray: a golden dusting with panko crumbs, crunchy and crisp? Do you have these in your pantry? Their lightness is a revelation, and they are so much better than ordinary breadcrumbs. Then some lemon zest, more S&P, and a good, good handful of finely grated parmesan.

Roast until they are done to perfection: the parmesan and panko biscuit-golden, the pumpkin soft thru, almost  melting; all glistening with the olive oil. When the kitchen smells cosy and fiery all at once.

I fanned these out on my plate, accompanied by a bowl of mixed salad greens and some lightly steamed zucchini chunks - still with a bit of crunch - and a ball of peppery, lemony labne. I imagined it was a bit like a mezze plate or tapas or tasting plate; really it was just two plates of tricked-up vegies.

But - oh! The chili-paprika pumpkin was fiery, perfect for such an arctic night, warming every last frozen tastebud. And the cheesy-crumby crusted pumpkin - the panko crackled in your mouth, the parmesan and lemon were sharp and bright and lively. I think I actually said 'wow' out loud.

And both had that delicious toffee edge that happens when a good starchy pumpkin caramelises with olive oil under high heat. There is science in the kitchen, there is alchemy and magic.

I devoured the lot, and wished there was more. I enjoyed them as the only thing on my dinner plate, with the soft salad greens a refreshing contrast to the velvety deepness of the pumpkin.

1 comment:

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